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WESTMINSTER, CO-JC Penney, Foley’s and a 12-screen AMC movie theater will anchor the 1.2 million-sf Orchard at Westminster shopping mall planned by Forest City West. The division of the Cleveland-based real estate development company reached an agreement for the Main Street-style center on 215 acres at the northwest corner of Interstate 25 and West 144th Avenue in the northern part of this city.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for April, with an opening in October 2006. Foley’s, part of the St. Louis-based May Co., is the dominant department store anchor in the area.

Brian Jones, president of Forest City West, says he believes the center will raise the bar for open-air shopping centers in the metro area, while providing much needed retail along the fast-growing northern I-25 corridor. However, Forest City will face competition from several other nearby developments. Most experts don’t believe there is room for all of them, at least in the short-term, although Forest City may have the most momentum with this announcement.

Key to the center is the approval of an intergovernmental agreement to build an interchange at West 144th Avenue and I-25, signed in November between the cities of Thornton and Westminster, paving the way for the final step in the development. The schedule for the interchange will coincide with construction of the lifestyle center.

“The interchange has been a key development in positioning this site for commercial use,” says Brent McFall, Westminster city manager. “It was an essential part of the development plan that Westminster and Thornton had jointly proposed beginning back in 2000. That development plan reflected the shared vision for the north I-25 area. Additionally, the cities have a revenue-sharing agreement for projects built within this area, so Thornton and Westminster will both benefit from this new project.”

Jones says the Orchard at Westminster is “designed to be reminiscent of the Main Streets of small towns in the first half of the 20th century.” There will be 60 to 80 retailers in the development for what he calls “an underserved and growing market in the northern Denver metro area, the site of the region’s major growth.”

Jones says the Orchard at Westminster is patterned after Victoria Gardens in California’s Inland Empire, Forest City’s most recent open-air, mixed-use center. Victoria Gardens is a 1.3-million-sf village of shops within 12 city blocks surrounding a Town Square.

“The southern portion of the Denver metro area is nearly built out,” Jones says. “Demographic studies show that future growth will be north and northeast of the Denver area, along I-25 and I-76, and this prime site is located on a corridor north of Downtown Denver that does not have a regional center.”

The Orchard at Westminster will include 500 housing units and office space. The name was selected to “reflect the rich agricultural heritage of the area, which was home to some of the largest apple orchards in Colorado,” according to Forest City.

The mixed-use master plan of residential, office and retail at The Orchard at Westminster will be created by Calthorpe Associates. Peter Calthorpe, president of the company and urban planner, has directed other mixed-use developments in the Denver metro area, including theformer Stapleton International Airport, which is being developed into a mixed-use development by Forest City. It is the largest infill development in the country at three quarters of the size of the island of Manhattan.

The Denver-based Mullhern Group will be the lead planner for the retail portion, joining with architects Elkus/Manfredi Ltd. of Boston and Field Paoli of San Francisco . They will be in charge of creating the commercial and mixed-use part of the development.

The Orchard at Westminster will generate more than $150 million in sales revenues annually, producing $86.4 million in new retail sales tax, property tax and business license taxes over a 10-year period. These revenues will help pay for the costs of municipal services, such as police, fire and recreational programs. The Orchard at Westminster also will create more than 3,000 new jobs.

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